Firm Secures First Circuit Victory for The Hershey Company in Class Action Lawsuit
Patterson Belknap scored an appellate win in a novel class action concerning the labeling of Hershey’s chocolates. The plaintiff alleged that Hershey’s product labeling violated Massachusetts consumer protection laws because it did not disclose that some cocoa may be indirectly sourced from regions in West Africa where child labor is used. The plaintiff asserted, in effect, that a manufacturer must disclose on product labeling every fact that might affect a reasonable consumer’s purchase decision—even facts unrelated to the safety or core functionality of the product. Last year, a federal district court held that Massachusetts law did not impose this sweeping disclosure obligation and dismissed the case with prejudice. On June 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously affirmed in a precedential decision. It agreed with our argument that product labels need not disclose everything a consumer might wish to know, holding that “[n]o single advertisement could possibly include every fact relevant to the purchasing decision; nor is such comprehensiveness required.” The court also recognized Hershey’s “commitment to eliminating forced child labor in the cocoa supply chain” and found no “basis … to conclude that [it] ha[d] tricked consumers or taken advantage of their assumptions [about child labor] for capital gain.”
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